“Y” for Yes, It’s Okay to Say No


Sometimes I think I’m raving mad.

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

“Sure, I’ll pick you up at the airport.” (When I am presently serving luncheon to my grandmother thirty miles south)

“Two dozen cookies for the church bake sale? Okay.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want you to miss out on a weekend away. I’ll watch Lucky.”

Sound like someone you know?

None of these examples of kindness is intrinsically bad, but when they come into focus under the lens of your own wellbeing, so much of what we agree to does carries a much higher price tag than at first glance.

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

If doing a favor for your neighbor, your husband, your school or church means adding significant points to your blood pressure, drives you to road rage, bubbles up inside you until you find yourself yelling at your children; the price tag is too high.

So many people come to rely on the ‘good guy’ who can always be counted on for last minute inconvenience –at the helper’s expense. The old adage “you have to lie down to be walked on.” is too often true.

People-pleasers “want everyone around them to be happy and they will do whatever is asked of them to” keep it that way, according to Susan Newman, Ph.D, a New Jersey-based social psychologist.

How do you break the pleasing-all habit? Court your self preservation angel. Whenever someone asks you for a favor, remind yourself that you can not be everything and everywhere. You always have the choice to decline. Kindly, firmly and without apology or guilt.

Remind yourself of your priorities and boundaries. Start small by limiting your volunteerism in favor of your own needs. How do you do this? Ask yourself what is most important to you. Remember it is perfectly okay to tell the favor-asker that you need some time to think about their request. That gives you the time to consider your priorities. Stalling also allows you the chance to consider if you are being manipulated precisely because of your helpful nature.

You are allowed to set time for yourself and the people you want to help most. So even if you have to set a mantra in your head–something as simple as a virtual sign with big red letters N-O. –your emotional and physical health will be well worth it. If you use empathy in your assertive decline, you will not only make the asker feel validated and heard, you will build their respect for your personal boundaries.

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Don’t allow yourself to be a serial apologist or excuse giver. Both these people pleasing proclivities allow the asker to work on changing your mind through guilt and counter excuse. You certainly never need to apologize for having your own needs, wants and priorities. You are entitled to your time, rest and rejuvenate to be there for the people you want to help out. Saying no is an opportunity to spend your time doing what you value in your life.

Consider who you really want to help. Is doing ‘pressing’ paperwork for your sister really more important than being there to emotionally support your sick friend battling cancer?

Don’t be afraid of the perceived consequence of saying no. Most people will be too busy thinking who they can ask next to help them to give your decline any more than a passing thought. People really do not think about you as much as you think they do. They are worrying about their own concerns.

Take small steps toward ‘No is the new Yes’ and you will find yourself growing not only in the confidence it takes to decline, and mean it, but in the joy of the newfound time you have to care for the only person you can control, the only person you can keep healthy and sound—YOU!

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